When STEEL AND VELVET became the subject of my article, I was transported back to what I had read about the incomparable former US President Abraham Lincoln, the Poet Carl Sandburg said of him and I quote from ‘OUR DAILY BREAD’: “Not often in the story of mankind does a man arrive on earth who is both steel and velvet, who holds in his heart and mind the paradox of terrible storm and peace unspeakable and perfect”!!! OUR DAILY BREAD goes on to say that Lincoln balanced the power of his office with concern for individuals longing for freedom!!! That is the MAN our country needs – An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove!!!
As far as I know, there is only one Man in all history who perfectly balanced power and compassion and that man is JESUS CHRIST!!! There has not and never will be another like HIM!!! “CHRIST STANDS ALONE!!!” Today, our world and our country, in particular, cry out for the velvet of mercy and the steel of justice!!! Steel and velvet form the indispensable framework within which politicians should embrace the reality of forgiveness and govern with justice!!! If we are to really accept Plato’s remark that the penalty for not actively participating in politics is that we wind up being governed by our inferiors, we must insist though that whether we actively participate or not, we are still being governed by fools!!! Pompous, self-righteous idiots who are blinded by their own importance!!!
Where, in all honesty, do we find a Leader who will place country before self, and most importantly do away with the Executive Presidency, the bane of our country??? As Colvin R. de Silva rightly predicted a long time ago, the Executive Presidency has shaken the foundation of independence in our country; the very core of democracy has been torn apart!!! Nepotism, bribery and corruption, all political vengeance and abuse of power MUST BE DONE AWAY WITH FORTHWITH!!! Our politicians must not seek and indulge in luxuries and lavish entertainments at the taxpayers’ expense; conversely, the plight of the poor, victims of 21/4 and other natural disasters like floods and pestilence, epidemics affecting mostly the poor, the marginalized, the down-trodden must be given high priority!!! Education and Health are both vital issues that have to be addressed in totality!!! Our politicians, if they are men of real grit and substance, must opt to voluntarily do away with their huge allowances, do away with them and show their true mettle!!!
If we have candidates who have no interest in democracy but claim to and we end up voting for them, it is indicative of the fact that we are really not an educated people!!! We need to acknowledge though, that part of what made Abraham Lincoln great was his ability to discern when to apply steel and when to use velvet!!!
Do something worthwhile instead for the poor, the marginalized, and the handicapped and the aged of our country, not forgetting the War Heroes; something tangible, something which is going to bring them relief not just for a day but for all time!!! Most importantly, the independence of the Judiciary must be protected at all costs!!! That is sacred and has not been safeguarded and held sacrosanct as it should have been!!! A true Politician should show tenderness and bigheartedness demonstrating the qualities of ‘velvet;’ likewise, in the same manner, he should also be as firm and as resolute as ‘steel!!!’ That is the true mettle not just of a politician but a statesman; a man for all seasons!!!
Any man aspiring to be President of a multiracial, multireligious and multicultural nation should be cognizant of what is expected of him; or else, if the ‘velvet’ is used when the ‘steel’ would have been better, he could end up with a colossal failure on his hands!!! The thrust of this election should evolve around democracy, and how crucially important it is for an educated people to vote for leaders who are not malevolent!!! If we have candidates who have no interest in democracy but claim to and we end up voting for them, it is indicative of the fact that we are really not an educated people!!! We need to acknowledge though, that part of what made Abraham Lincoln great was his ability to discern when to apply steel and when to use velvet!!! The yearning for strong men who are morally and ethically deficient is not unusual for people who are disappointed with the quality of leadership that they have had to endure so far!!! Unfortunately, our Sri Lankans have this terrible tendency to ignore or forget what they have endured; it is something like a temporary lapse of reasoning that we Sri Lankans suffer from!!! It is just like getting intoxicated and getting up the next morning to realize that our circumstances have not changed and so we are bigger fools than the day before!!! This folly is so often practiced by the ordinary citizen that there ought to be some way someone could stop them from voting and making bigger fools of themselves!!!
Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice. Not in love with publicity but in love with humanity” the burning question is ‘where do we find such leaders???’ We had President Jayawardena exercising ‘An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove’ and we had President Premadasa who was ALL STEEL!!! What we need is a President who wakes up at dawn and shakes the country awake by its very foundation!!! The poor should be looked after, they should be able to bring their grievances to the President himself, their problems should be attended to; money or otherwise, they should not be shelved or thrown from pillar to post!!! In other words he should be an ideal PEOPLE’S PRESIDENT!!!